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Origin of Sin

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Senior Pastor Oakwood Presbyterian Church

QUESTION: In John 1:3 it says that through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  Does this mean that God also created sin?

ANSWER: You're not alone in being troubled by the question of where sin and evil came from.  Theologians have even coined a term for the age-old debate – "theodicy".  Part of that study addresses your question:  If God is holy and just, and, as you say, cannot even look upon sin, and if He is the only true God who created all things, then how did evil, temptation, and sin ever enter His good creation?   

     I'll start by saying that there is a great mystery here.  We can't (in this life, at least) know a full and satisfactory answer to this question, because God has not revealed the answer.  His Word simply doesn't address it directly.  But there are a few things that we do know about the origin of evil and sin based upon Scripture. 

     First, we know that sin existed before the fall of Adam and Eve.  God created the angels, and they were all "very good".  However, somehow they were tempted and some of them chose to sin by rebelling against God, resulting in their being cast out of heaven.  Therefore sin originated with Satan and the demons (fallen angels), not with the rebellion of Adam and Eve.  Satan tempted Eve to sin, God didn't.  But the Bible tells us very little about that original rebellion among the angels, and nothing about how the angels were tempted to rebel or how it was possible. 

     When John says in the verse that you quote, "All things were made through Him...", he is referring to the creation, the material world.  Sin isn't a "thing" in the same sense that trees, animals, stars, and human beings are created "things".  Sin is an action, a choice, an attitude, a desire.  God created Adam to be "very good", and by giving Adam an opportunity to choose to obey or disobey, God allowed for the possibility of sin entering His creation.  But He didn't tempt Adam to sin or in any way cause him to sin.  The desire to rebel came from within Adam, and it wasn't placed there by God. 

     We can know that for us, as fallen human beings, temptation and sin aren't things that God created, because James clearly tells us, "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death." (James 1:13).  Since the fall of Adam and Eve, the real origin of sin is in our hearts.

     While the Bible teaches that God doesn't cause us to sin or tempt us to sin, it does teach that He is sovereign over our sins.  In a mysterious way, He is able to incorporate our sinful choices into His great plan for the world, and particularly for our redemption.  Joseph said to his abusive brothers, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." (Genesis 50:20).  Peter showed this relationship between God's sovereignty and our sins in the way he spoke about the events of the cross:  "...this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men." (Acts 2:23).  Somehow God incorporated the sinful choices and actions of the Jewish leaders into His sovereign plan to send His Son to the cross to die for our sins.  We don’t know how it works, but it is comforting to know that God is in total control of the sinful activities going on around us. 

     That also means that God not only knew about the sins of Adam and Eve, but He also incorporated them into His plan for the history of the world and for our redemption even before He began to create the world.  Ephesians 1:4 says that "He chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him."  Again, there are mysteries here that we are not able to understand, probably both because the truth is really beyond our puny comprehension, and because God has not chosen to reveal the answers in His Word.

Posted by Rev. Dan Kiehl with

Political Debates

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 Senior Pastor of Oakwood Presbyterian Church

QUESTION: “It bothers me to get into debates with other believers about politics. How should I handle differences with Christian brothers or sisters on political or social issues?”

ANSWER: I usually stay out of the political debates, not because I don't have opinions or feel strongly about them, but because I rarely find them to be productive and because they usually produce so much more heat than light.  I think that my greatest frustration is that we tend to bring all the cultural political labels and their baggage with us into the discussion. Conservatives and liberals are equally guilty - "Oh, you're liberal, so you're for big government..."; "You're conservative, so you're for imposing your morality on other people". Once the label is applied, all your thoughts and motivations are assumed, and battle lines are drawn.  Because of this some of my Christian friends work hard to confound any attempts to pigeon-hole them with political labels.

      When there are divisions in our church family, I always ask one question of the "parties" involved - "Is this a disagreement over principle or is it over strategy?" If we differ in principle (i.e., inerrancy of Scripture, deity of Christ, exclusivity of salvation in Christ), then if we can't agree we may well have to part ways. On the other hand, if we agree in principle but differ in strategy (i.e., methods of evangelism, style of worship, color of the carpet), then we should strive to maintain unity and work through our differences. Our unity in principle should trump our diversity in strategies. 

      The same should be true in political and social issues. Evangelical Christian "liberals" have radically different worldviews and motivations than non-Christian "liberals", and the same is true for Christian "conservatives" compared to non-Christian "conservatives". A Christian "conservative" may agree wholeheartedly with a non-Christian "conservative" about the strategy of passing an amendment to the constitution to protect a traditional understanding of marriage, but the principles upon which they base their strategy are very different. A Christian "liberal" and a non-Christian "liberal" will both demand that the government care for the needs of the poor, but based upon different principles. The PRINCIPLES that bind Christian liberals and conservatives together in Christ are much stronger than the STRATEGIES that bind Christian and non-Christian conservatives together. But you'd never know it by some of the caustic debates that go on among believers. 

      If you were to ask me to fill out a survey of my "strategies" for current issues, you would all no doubt end up labeling me a right-wing conservative. But I would then be handicapped by that label, because of all the wrong assumptions that come with it. For instance, like my socially liberal Christian friends, I feel very strongly about the principle that we are called by God to embrace and care for the orphan & widow, the needy and oppressed. But when it comes to "strategy", I don't believe that it is wise to look to or expect the civil government to be a primary care-giver in society. 

     I guess my point is that I prefer to be labeled a citizen of Christ's kingdom who is struggling by grace to apply Biblical principles to a messed up world. I hope that we all share that in common. Our unity in principle trumps our diversity in strategies.